The Media Today

The media today: Vice News Tonight’s shocking view of the Charlottesville terror

August 17, 2017

For almost a year, Vice has brought its millennial-focused style of reporting to the stodgy establishment of nightly news. Airing on HBO, Vice News Tonight usually features a mix of mini-documentary feature segments and voiceover narration of video clips with slick graphics. On Monday night, the format changed, and the result was something special.

Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” a 22-minute documentary on the events of last weekend’s white supremacist march and its deadly aftermath, is an excellent, chilling piece of work. HBO allowed Vice to post the entire episode online, and it has been viewed 28 million times on Facebook and almost four million times on YouTube. Network and cable news have also aired portions of the footage, likely introducing millions to the Vice brand for the first time.

The documentary opens with scenes of torch-wielding white men chanting “Blood and soil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” then follows a chronological timeline through the events of the weekend, including interviews with white supremacists who came to Charlottesville for the march. Lacking a narrator, the weight of carrying the story is shared by correspondent Elle Reeve and the Vice News editing team, who juxtapose scene of violence and vitriolic chants with quieter moments of reflection. In one disturbing scene, a white supremacist tells Reeve, “I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence.”

That Vice would be in the right place at the right time is not coincidental. As Josh Tyrangiel, the executive in charge of Vice News Tonight, told CNN’s Brian Stelter, “The rise of white nationalism is a story that we’ve been covering.” Reeve interviewed Richard Spencer, a leader of the so-called alt right, in December, and she used her connections with those in the movement to gain access to people involved in the planning of the Charlottesville march. The result was an important piece of journalism that captured the horror that white supremacists brought to Virginia.

Below, more on Vice and the coverage of Charlottesville.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.